I was and I am still interested in the field of human rights. I served as Minister of Oil from October 1992 to April 1994.
When I left the Ministry of Oil, I returned to the National Assembly because I was an MP and an elected minister. I went to the office of then Speaker of the Assembly Ahmed Abdul Aziz Al-Saadoun who asked me which of the parliamentary committees I would like to work in. I told him: The Finance Committee in my capacity as Minister of Oil — the only source of Kuwait’s funds, and the Human Rights Committee.
Al-Saadoun was astonished by my last wish and asked me: What does oil have to do with human rights? I told him that prior to working at the ministry and the Public Prosecution, I practiced the legal profession — a profession connected to the achievement and promotion of human rights.
The chairman of the committee at the time was distinguished MP Muhammad Al-Murshed; while the distinguished members included Dr Ahmed Al-Khatib, Abdullah Al-Nibari and others whose names I no longer remember.
Then, I left the Assembly and joined the Human Rights Society, which was working without a license at the time. The late Jassem Al-Qatami used to preside over our meetings at the Kuwaiti Graduates Society.
After we were licensed on the condition that no government aid is requested and with the permission of the fundamentalist brothers (Salaf Brothers) to establish another Kuwaiti society for human rights, we worked hard to achieve human rights and respect its principles in Kuwait. When Jassim Al-Qatami was transferred to the mercy of God, I became the president of the society for several years.
We worked hard in this field with determination and desire emanating from the depths of our hearts until the law on establishing the Human Rights Diwan in Kuwait was approved in 2015. The Diwan was established in accordance with international agreements that Kuwait previously acceded to. These agreements provided for the establishment of such an entity, meaning the Kuwaiti government was almost forced internationally to establish the entity.
The government did not nominate the members of the Diwan until 2018, according to Decree 269 of 2018. I was fortunate to be appointed as a member of the Diwan. I was nominated by the late Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad, may God have mercy on him, and some members of the Assembly.
Since the issuance of bylaws regulating the work of the National Diwan for Human Rights on May 23, 2019, we have been working hard to recognize, fulfill and implement the principles of human rights in our society, whose Amir, HH the late Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad, may God have mercy on him, was named the International Humanitarian Leader, and Kuwait as International Humanitarian Center.
We hoped to succeed in amending the laws affecting public freedoms and the principles of human rights approved by civilized and advanced countries. Foremost of the laws that must be amended are as follows:
1) The prison sentence stipulated in the laws on electronic media — the prison sentence for those convicted based on this disgraceful law exceeds 800 years. This led to the imprisonment of our young men and women in Kuwaiti prisons along with murderers, thieves and other criminals; while many others are displaced across the globe.
2) Adoption of the civil and human rights of Bedouns, and the Bedoun issue itself. Here, we are not asking for naturalization of those who are deserving and not deserving; we are asking for acknowledgment of their civil and human rights without procrastination or humiliation.
3) Abolition of the sponsorship system as it is a wide field for visa traders — vampires for poor and needy expatriates who came to help us live in this country and to earn money through their sweat and physical and mental efforts.
4) Suspension of administrative deportation of expatriates, except through a court ruling.
5) Activate the shelters for distressed expatriate workers and make them fully operational.
6) Putting forensic medicine under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice.
7) Putting criminal evidence under the supervision of the Public Prosecution, instead of the Ministry of Interior.
8) Amending laws that discriminate against women, such as Article 153 of the Penal Code, which imposes a lenient sentence on a man who murders his wife if he accuses her of adultery, as well as equating a Kuwaiti woman married to a non-Kuwaiti with a Kuwaiti man married to a foreigner.
We are hoping to achieve the above in order to establish more human rights in our country — the humanitarian country.
By Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli
Former Minister of Oil